A judge in Washington state ruled Wednesday that a florist's refusal to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding violated the state anti-discrimination law.
Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom found that the florist violated consumer protections when she wouldn't sell flowers for the same-sex wedding of a longtime customer because of her religious beliefs. The couple was protected by the Washington Law Against Discrimination, which prohibits bias based on sexual orientation, the court ruled.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which represented the couple, praised the decision.
"The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples,” Ferguson said in a statement, TV station KEPR reported. “Washingtonians have enacted laws recognizing equality for same-sex couples, and I will continue to vigorously uphold these laws. I appreciate the judge’s decision and am very proud of my team’s hard work to stop this unlawful discrimination.”
Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, had bought flowers from the shop for nearly a decade, the Tri-City Herald reported in 2013. So the couple was surprised when owner Barronelle Stutzman told them she wouldn't provide wedding flowers because of her "relationship with Jesus Christ." Stutzman told KEPR at the time that it was the only wedding she had turned down in nearly 40 years.
The couple was married in 2013.
Washington's anti-discrimination law allows for penalties of up to $2,000 per violation, as well as legal fees. The state will likely seek those against Stutzman individually as well as her business, a spokesman for the attorney general's office told The Associated Press.